Virgin And Catholic Mystic In Hidden Role Behind Movie Embraced By Protestants
By Michael H. Brown
There are the effects: The Passion of the Christ is now to the point where it will energize the lukewarm, where it will fill gaps left in the wake of scandals, where it will minister to a society that has gone wildly secular (and often anti-God).
Yes, the movie is a phenomenon -- rolling like a tsunami from the devotional to the mainstream, from Church Street to Wall Street -- and is shaping up as a defining moment in the raging spiritual war.
The main power of the movie, of course, comes from Jesus Crucified. Any movie truthfully centered on Him has power, and this one especially. The Holy Spirit is elevating the film as a vehicle of evangelization at a time when the Name of Jesus had been all but eliminated from the public arena. It is coming at a time of homosexual marriage and public blasphemy. Expect a great step-up in that battle!
It is also powered by the hidden influence of the Blessed Mother. As it turns out, there is Marian mysticism to the core of this film -- mysticism that has been widely ignored by both the secular and religious media. Not only is the Blessed Mother's character played in a way that will endear often disaffected Protestants, but she was an actual spiritual influence, it turns out, in the very germination of this film. Indeed, the symbol for Mel Gibson's company, Icon Productions, is a Byzantine-like icon of the Virgin Mary [see image above] that is the very first image seen in the movie.
Meanwhile the star, Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus, was converted in large part through an experience connected to the apparition site of Medjugorje (where Mary has appeared since 1981). As we have previously reported, throughout the filming, Caviezel wore a relic given by a couple associated with Medjugorje -- which is widely dismissed by both Protestants and many within the Catholic Church who harbor a distaste for Catholic mysticism, especially mysticism involving the Blessed Mother.
Now, she turns out to be a force in a film the entire Christian community is fervently embracing.
"I first heard about Medjugorje in fifth or sixth grade," Caviezel recently had told a priest. "They said that it was like the apparitions of Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes. Many years later, I met my wife, we got married, and after a few years she went to Medjugorje. While she was there, I was filming The Count of Monte Cristo in Ireland. She called me in Ireland, I felt that there was a change in her voice, but I wrote it off very quickly, thinking: “That’s good for you, dear, who am I to take away from your spiritual experience?' She said that [seer] Ivan Dragicevic was coming to Ireland… I met with him a couple of times, and during an apparition, I felt a physical presence."
That presence transformed the actor into what is tantamount to a Hollywood evangelist -- thrusting him to the forefront of what may be a miniature Christian revival, at least in parts of America. "The catharsis for me to play this role was through Medjugorje, through Gospa [Our Lady]," says the actor, who was struck by lightning but walked away without a scratch while filming the Sermon on the Mount. "I used all that Medjugorje taught me," he says of preparing for the scenes. "Mel Gibson and I were going every day for Mass together. Some days I couldn’t go for Mass, but I was receiving the Eucharist. Somewhere along the line, I heard that the Pope was going to Confession every day, so I thought that I should go to Confession as often as possible. I didn’t want Lucifer to have any control over the performance. Ivan Dragicevic and his wife gave me a piece of the 'true cross.' I kept this on me all the time. They made a special pocket in my clothes for it.
"I also had relics of St. Padre Pio, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Maria Goretti, and St. Denisius, the Patron saint of actors.
"I read many of the messages continuously. Every day everyone could see me with the rosary in my hands. Through one’s own life, it is not what we say but what we do. I dedicate my work to her Son, I dedicate all that I do to her Son. I ask Mary to guide me and my career. You can convert people only by living your life. This film is something that I believe was made by Mary for her Son."
Others were similarly guided -- and affected. As we have likewise previously noted, when the composer for the movie, John Debney, couldn't think of how to score one part of the movie, he prayed for the Blessed Mother's help -- and says the words came to him supernaturally. A "coincidence" it is the the name of the Jewish woman who plays Mary, Maia Morgenstern, translates as "Morning Star" -- a devotional title given to the Virgin.
All of this might come as a surprise to the hundreds of thousands of Protestants who have declared the movie as their own. It was evangelical and Pentecostal audiences who, after watching previews, gave the movie its strongest pre-release buzz. And they are now filling movie theaters. Non-Catholic Christian churches are buying out entire movie houses ("four-walling," as it's known in the trade) to encourage their members to attend The Passion and take their unchurched friends with them. "In northeastern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., McLean Bible Church reserved 11,306 tickets for members and their guests," notes one report.
As such, the movie serves as a grand opportunity for ecumenism -- a meeting point between Catholics and Protestants -- and is also powered by a second strongly Catholic personage, mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich, a seer and stigmatic who had frequent visions of both Mary and Jesus. Despite efforts to distance the movie from Emmerich (who is controversial among Jews), the German stigmatic's book of revelations called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was a demonstrably heavy influence on the film -- indeed, serves as the very base for much of it. Emmerich was granted many of her visions by the Blessed Mother appearing to her.
The presence of Satan throughout the Passion, the way the demonic takes various forms, the agony of Judas, the extent of scourging, the involvement of Mary, and the very way Christ was nailed to the cross are right out of revelations in The Dolorous Passion.
Consider the manner in which Emmerich describes the sky as "dark, gloomy, and threatening -- the moon was red" (highly similar to the movie's opening scenes) and how Judas Iscariot "wandered up and down the steep and wild precipices at the south of Jerusalem, despair marked on his every feature, and the devil pursuing him to and fro, filling his imagination with still darker visions, and not allowing him a moment's respite... followed by many devils."
This is precisely how Judas is portrayed in the movie (pursued by demons in various guises) even though the Gospels offer precious little such detail on this and other aspects of Christ's Crucifixion.
During her visions in the 1800s Emmerich had "seen" Christ brutalized on a bridge -- which also finds its way into the film -- and tossed into a subterranean prison.
"The Jews, having quite exhausted their barbarity, shut Jesus up in a little vaulted prison," wrote Emmerich, who explicitly described the swollen nature of Christ's Face. "Two of the archers alone remained with Him, and they were soon replaced by two others. He was still clothed in the old dirty mantle, and covered with the spittle and other filth which they had thrown over Him."
Then there is the Virgin. Her presence at Pilate's court is also straight from Emmerich. In fact, much of Emmerich's account sees the Crucifixion through Mary's eyes -- and, like the movie, had her accompanied by Mary Magdalen.
As for the scourging, Emmerich -- whose relic Gibson carries on him -- describes first a beating with sticks, and then the vicious, seemingly endless lashings, with various tormentors taking their turns as Mary watched in silent torment. "These cruel men had many times scourged poor criminals to death at this pillar," claimed Venerable Emmerich. "They resembled wild beasts or demons, and dragged Him by the cords with which He was pinioned.
"Two ruffians continued to strike Our Lord with unremitting violence for a quarter of an hour, and were succeeded by two others. His body was entirely covered with black, blue, and red marks; the Blood was trickling down on the ground, and yet the furious cries which issued from among the assembled Jews showed that their cruelty was far from being satiated. Two fresh executioners commenced scourging Jesus with the greatest possible fury; they made use of a different kind of rod -- a species of thorny stick, covered with knots and splinters. The blows from these sticks tore His flesh to pieces; His Blood spouted out so as to stain their arms, and He groaned, prayed, and shuddered."
Emmerich claimed that was followed by scourging with small chains or straps covered with iron hooks, "which penetrated to the bone and tore off large pieces of flesh at every blow. What word, alas! could describe this terrible -- this heartrending scene!"
The same is said of the movie...
Meanwhile, the Body of Christ, she maintained -- as does the movie -- was "perfectly torn to shreds." It was but one big wound. There is the scene of Christ in His own Blood at the foot of the pillar -- and a description of the scourging as lasting for three-quarters of an hour.
As for Emmerich's description of the actual nailing to the Cross, this too bears numerous striking similarities to Gibson's triumphant movie. When a large nail was pressed into His hand and a great iron hammer drove it through the flesh, Emmerich had said, "Our Lord uttered one deep but suppressed groan, and His Blood gushed forth" as the Virgin watched.
As in the movie, the nails were described as coming through the back of the cross.
Meanwhile, when they tied Him to the cross with ropes, she said, they pulled His left hand "violently until it reached the place prepared for it," dislocating His bones.
As His mother watched in that silent, prayerful, dignified horror, a long nail was pounded through both of her Son's feet, wrote Emmerich, and then the cross was erected -- falling into a hole prepared for it "with a frightful shock."
The description of trickling blood and a body entirely covered with wounds is as hard to read in Emmerich's books as it is to watch in Gibson's movie...
"I cast my eyes upon Jesus -- my Redeemer -- the Redeemer of the world," wrote Emmerich. "I beheld Him motionless and almost lifeless. I felt as if I myself must expire; my heart was overwhelmed between grief, love, and horror."
[resources: The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Passion photo album, and The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary]
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